Sunday, November 21, 2010

Not thinking

What I think of as thinking is probably not thinking. It is the automatic traffic of associations through my brain rather than conscious, deliberate thought. I am absorbed in a conversation with someone about Billy Collins's poem Lines Lost Among Trees, a conversation that has long since passed but I have more things I want to say, and I drive past the intersection where I wanted to turn. My mind is on automatic, or on vacation, as in Mose Allison's song. Then I am reminded of a description of the Giants manager, John McGraw, in the Glory of Their Times: "Any mental error, any failure to think, and McGraw would be all over you. ... However, he'd never get on you for a mechanical mistake, a fielding error or failure to get a hit." And I cannot count the errors I have made because of not thinking, or because of being wrapped up in my head, automatic thoughts, associations, whatever label you want. There's also the story of Milo, in the Phantom Tollbooth, driving along and he stops paying attention, when the sign points left he goes right, and after "mile after mile ..." he ends up in the Doldrums. Tock, the alarm clock watchdog, makes Milo understand that he got there by not thinking and with conscious, deliberate thought he can and does get the car moving again.

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